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NAACP's Freedom Fund banquet serves as a clarion call for action

Organization bestows annual accolades, scholarships at 76th annual event
Leaders and award recipients of the Arlington NAACP's 2023 Freedom Fund Banquet pose following the event, held at George Mason University's Arlington campus.

Back in person for the first time since COVID struck, the Arlington NAACP’s 76th Freedom Fund banquet represented a call to action on a number of issues.

The event was held Oct. 14 at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, with the program overseen by NAACP branch president Michael Hemminger.

“There is nothing we cannot accomplish when we are united around a common cause moving the line forward for everyone,” Hemminger said. “All this advocacy has changed lives – we have a lot to be proud of.”

Symone Sanders-Townsend delivered keynote remarks under the theme “Never Silenced.”

At the event, the Arlington NAACP presented its annual awards:

• VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) was honored with the Charles P. Monroe Civil Rights Award.

• Antone Jacobs, owner of BBQ-At-Its-Best, was presented with the Henry L. Holmes Meritorious Service Award.

• The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington and Restorative Arlington shared the Willard Woodson “Woody” Brittain Jr. Community Appreciation Award.

• Pamela Pinnock received the Esther Georgia Irving Cooper Civil-Rights Activist of the Year Award.

In addition, student scholarships were presented to Sora Spencer (Marymount University), Jackson Frederick (University of Virginia), Lisbeth Vasquez (Virginia Commonwealth University), Joana Agboka (Virginia Commonwealth University), Sara Berhe-Abraha (Pomona College), Zoe Davis (North Carolina A&T State University), Chelsea Figaro (North Carolina A&T State University), Alexander Hall (University of Virginia), Elena Ogbe (James Madison University), Belen Tesfaye (Northeastern University), Takier George (Howard University), Rylei Porter (Belmont University).

Karen Nightengale, a past president of the Arlington branch, chaired the banquet committee. She noted that while the evening was a time for celebration, it also was a time for reflection.

“Tomorrow, we will continue the fight for justice and equality,” Nightengale said. “We fight for fair housing and affordable housing, we fight for higher standards in our education system, we fight for the rights of the incarcerated.”

The Arlington branch of the NAACP traces its roots to 1940, when it was founded by Esther Cooper, who served as president until 1953.